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CDC: Poisonings from cleaners, disinfectants rose sharply in March

CDC: Poisonings from cleaners, disinfectants rose sharply in March
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Calls to poison control centers about exposures to cleaners and disinfectants increased 20 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2019, according to a new report released Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, the sharpest increase in the daily number of calls to poison centers happened at the beginning of March, the agency said.

While the CDC said the data does not show a definite link between exposures and coronavirus cleaning efforts, the report said it seems likely the two are linked, given the number of stay-at-home orders, shortages of cleaning products, and guidance to clean hands and dirty surfaces.

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The agency said its data also likely underestimates the total incidence and severity of poisonings because it is limited to people calling poison centers for assistance.

Between January and March 2020, poison centers received 45,550 exposure calls related to cleaners and disinfectants. During the same period in 2019, the agency received about 38,000 calls. In 2018, the agency received about 39,000 calls. 

The increase in total calls was seen across all age groups, but, exposures among children younger than 5 years old "consistently represented a large percentage of total calls," the CDC said.

Among all cleaner categories, bleaches accounted for the largest percentage of the increase. For young children, the rise mainly involved non-alcohol disinfectants and hand sanitizers, the CDC said.

Inhalation represented the largest percentage increase from 2019 to 2020 among all exposure routes, with an increase of 35 percent for all cleaners and an increase of 109 percent for all disinfectants.

In one example, CDC reported a woman was taken to the emergency room after soaking her groceries in a sink full of a mixture of 10 percent bleach solution, vinegar and hot water. 

In another, a preschool-age child was admitted to the pediatric intensive care after ingesting an unknown amount of an ethanol-based hand sanitizer. The child was able to return home after 48 hours.